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Light on a cure for Alzheimer’s

It won’t be this year, but perhaps one day we will get the best Christmas present of all – confirmation of a cure of Alzheimer’s disease.

When so many people are already affected by this disease and estimates that there will be around 1 million sufferers by 2025, and when you take into account all the carers also involved, it is something that is of concern to a great number of people.

Now exciting news is coming in from Stanford University in America that their researchers have discovered information about a protein called EP2, which is involved in preventing special cells from clearing the brain of bacteria, viruses and dangerous deposits.

These special clearing cells are actually called microglia and they chew up toxic substances and cell debris, and also calm inflammation in the brain.

The scientists say that microglia, which constitute about 10 – 15 per cent of all the cells in the brain, work well when people are young but when they age, the EP2 protein can become involved in stopping these cells working properly. Hence the brain starts getting “fogged up” with various problems including memory loss.

The scientists have so far worked with mice and when they blocked the production of EP2 with a special drug, the special cells starting working again, removing the sticky plaques and the notorious protein called A-beta, which can damage nerve cells in Alzheimer’s and is a hallmark feature of the disease.

Katrin Andreasson, MD, is professor of neurology and neurological sciences at the university, and was involved in the research.

She described microglia as the brain’s cops. “Our experiments show that keeping them on the right track counters memory loss and preserves health brain physiology,“ she said.

“If they lose their ability to function, things get out of control. A-beta builds up in the brain, inducing toxic inflammation.”

Memory loss was shown to decline when EP2 was blocked in mice with Alzheimer’s. Now the university at looking at ways to develop a compound which can block EP2 without key side effects.

Read the full report here.

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